Sunday, April 7, 2013

History of Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the capital and largest city of the Netherlands in north-west Europe.  It is located in the North Holland Province, one of the twelve provinces that make up the Netherlands.  The Netherlands are bordered by Germany to the east and Belgium to the south, with the North Sea to the north and west.   With a landscape dominated by water, the Netherlands is a country with 26% of the area under sea level.   Amsterdam has two major rivers running through the city, the Amstel and the IJ, and there are over 165 canals throughout the city.  The city’s transportation systems of water, rail, air and road have evolved since the 1200s.

Water was the predominate mode of transportation for this area beginning in the 13th century when dams were first placed on the Amstel River by the “Aemstelledammers”.  The small fishing village began to toll passing boats which were shipping beer and herring for the Eastern Sea Trade of the Baltics.  The locals became expert boat makers and beer brewers and river traffic flourished with the trade.  The town continued to grow and received its first charter in 1300.  Amsterdam became a commercial and maritime power when it gained the exclusive rights to import Hamburg beer in 1323.  It was also around this time that herring curing was invented.  This allowed the fish to stay fresh longer and enabled the ships to increase their catch and their profits.

In 1602, the Dutch East India Company was founded when several traders joined together to form the first multinational company in the world.   Amsterdam held a majority share in the company and the economy was booming.  The original town and port were confined within a semi-circular canal called the Singel.  This canal drained the swampy marshland and acted as a military defense.  The city began to expand, beginning in 1613 with the creation of the Canal Ring.  The Canal Ring was created using the same hydraulic morphology as the Singel.  The design included concentric canals to the west and south of the original town and port, parallel to the Singel and ending with the new defense boundary called the Singelgracht.   The area in between was then filled in and building began.  The Singel canal became an inland port and the three main canals of the Canal Ring allowed for docking of trading vessels.

Although the 17th century was considered a Golden Age with its period of unprecedented prosperity, the economy slowed to a standstill by the end of that century.  Things improved with the creation of the North Sea Canal (Noordzed Kanaal) in 1876, which gave the city a direct link to the North Sea.   This canal enable steamships to access the Amsterdam Port which was a turning point for the city’s economy and allowed them to become important players in the spice trade with the Dutch East Indies, and later the diamond trade of South Africa.

Rail transport came to Amsterdam with the completion of the Central Station in 1889, connecting the city with the rest of Europe.  The Schiphol Airport is home to the Dutch National Carrier KLM, which is the oldest airline in the world.

Information gathered from the following websites:
World Heritage Convention

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